A Pilot Special Report: After the ADDICTION
Graduation is a time for celebration but for one Storm Lake native, it will not be from high school or college.
Tina will be graduating from Teen Challenge USA, a substance abuse treatment program, which she funded from the help of over 15 donors on a GoFundMe account she started over a year ago in hopes of reclaiming her life. After over five years of battling substance abuse Tina will be graduating from the program in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 10.
Overall, the state of Iowa has an above average drinking level for most age groups when compared to the national average. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 percent of the alcohol consumed are done by people 12 to 20 years old.This Storm Lake native’s struggle with alcohol abuse began at 17.
By the time she was 21, she had been arrested multiple times on charges of underage drinking and possession of alcohol. Tina talked about a series of events that made her start thinking about how she could change her life around.
“I had one police officer, a man I didn’t even know, tell me that I was better than that. It was amazing,” she said. “Another time, I was in a jail cell and I could see the guard looking at me like he had better not see me there again.”
It was a friend of hers who told Tina about GoFundMe and how she should try to raise the money needed for treatment. She originally was hesitant to do it but she credits God with giving her the strength to take that step.
Within a month of posting on GoFundMe, Tina earned her initial goal of $1,000. Within 10 to 20 minutes of her posting on GoFundMe, she had friends and family sending her words of encouragement. One person wrote, ‘Teen Challenge is a great program - very happy to support and pray for you on this journey.’’
Eleven months ago Tina entered Teen Challenge USA in a program based in St. Louis where she has endured strict treatment.
Teen Challenge USA is a religious-based addiction recovery center working nationwide. This group does a holistic type of recovery program which means that they focus with every aspect of their participant. Their goal is to help people heal mentally, emotionally and physically from their addictions.
Every day participants follow a strict schedule which includes prayer, homework and other activities that allow them to try and get their lives back on a better path. These individuals are not allowed to have phones, hold jobs and a number of other things for the majority of their stay.
Tina explained why she chose to go through Teen Challenge USA.
“The 30-day programs wouldn’t work for me,” she said. “I would go to the outpatient program meetings drunk. I needed something like Teen Challenge USA, something faith based.”
Tina has been in the program for 11 months and with her graduation coming up, she says she is confident in what lies ahead. She hopes to attend C3MI ministry institute, a year long program where she can get the tool necessary to give back to her community.
She hopes to minister to the Sudanese community and refugees about the struggles of addiction, depression and anxiety. There she hopes to help these communities understand that there is a problem and a need for programs like Teen Challenge USA.
“Coming from a South Sudanese family, we just didn’t talk about this kind of thing,” Tina said. “You’d get over it and deal with. People don’t understand addiction, depression and anxiety. It is real and you can’t just sweep it under the rug.”
With substance abuse and underage drinking being common in Iowa, professionals tell parents to set a good example for their children. Children will not listen to what their parents have to say but rather mimic their actions. Unlike many, Tina’s story seems to be on its way to a happy ending. For many young substance abusers, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.
“God opened so many doors,” Tina said. “This journey that I took was not easy and God gave me the strength to do it. I know if I can get through this, then I can do anything. Parents, if your child seems to be having problems, don’t ignore it. Get them to therapy, anything to help.”